Memories of Kettering VE Day street parties - and the day they burnt an effigy of Hitler

On, Tuesday, May 8, 1945, people rejoiced that the war in Europe was finally over celebrating with street parties and bonfires

By Alison Bagley
Thursday, 7th May 2020, 6:00 am

On Tuesday May 8, 1945, little Jennifer Pumfleet (nee Howelt), who had been staying at her gran's house in Kettering, was taken by her aunt Margaret, snug on her uncle Fred's shoulders to watch a parade.

With 75 years between then and now, Jennifer, now 79, does not remember two street parties she attended, although she appears in photographs proving she was there, but can distinctly remember the chant of 'burn old Hitler' as people carrying torches marched past as she watched from her vantage point.

A frequent visitor to her grandparents' home in Bath Road, the then four-and-half-year-old Welsh girl had been allowed to stay up late to watch the people of Kettering celebrate VE Day.

Jennifer said: "As a child I used to spend a lot of time in Kettering. My grandparents had moved from Ebbw Vale in Wales and my mother moved back but I would go and stay with them and my auntie during the school holidays. My grandad worked at the Timpson's factory very close to his house.

"It's funny, I can remember sweetie coupons and I can remember eating my first ever banana. It took me about an hour because I didn't know whether I liked it or not but I can't remember the VE Day parties.

"I must have been very lucky because I appear in two photographs - one in Bath Road where my grandparents lived and the other round the corner in Kipling Road.

"I'm looking very smart wearing two white bows in my hair. I must have made lots of playmates. but the only person I remember is one of our neighbours Errol Holmes."

The jubilant crowd show their effigy of Hitler to the camera

After the parties, Jennifer clearly remembers being carried on her uncle's shoulders with people marching past with flaming torches.

Jennifer's grandparents, Will and Margaret Price lived close to North Park.

She said: "They were marching past and we were near a football field. They marched past and were chanting 'burn old Hitler' over and over.

"It's a very vivid recollection. There was a bonfire and they were saying 'burn old Hitler'."

VE Day Kipling Road, Kettering

On VE Day's 70th anniversary the Northants Telegraph was sent a photograph of another street party that was held in Kettering which also backs-up Jennifer's memory.

The photograph was sent in by Andrew Wood, who used to live in Southgate Drive, Kettering and can be seen third from the right on the front row.

He said: "The picture was taken during the VE Day celebrations in Southgate Drive, Kettering, on May 8, 1945; I was living at 17 Southgate Drive.

"On my right are two brothers named Fish, who were evacuees from London.

Bath Road cleebrations of VE Day in Kettering

“On my left, the girl next door, Eileen Hall, who lived at no 19. Far left on the front row was Brian Pugh, who lived across the road from me and next to him, Dorothy Phillips; she also lived directly opposite me in Southgate Drive.

“Standing, on the back row was Diane Allison and next to her, partially obscured, with fairish hair and ribbon, her younger sister, Wendy, who was the subject of my first crush at about that time.

“The party took place at the Deeble Road end of Southgate Drive. Deeble Road was an unmade road, which terminated at Southgate Drive in those days.

“That evening, my mother took me into town, where we watched as an effigy of Hitler was burned on a bonfire.

“My father, who was in the RAF and stationed at RAF Kallang in Singapore, did not return home until 1946, after the RAF SEAC Mutiny. As I recall, he was the last father in Southgate Drive to be demobbed following the end of the war.

“My family left Kettering the day after I left school (Stamford Road Secondary Modern) during July 1954.”

The street party in Southgate Drive, Kettering. Mr Wood is seated third from the right on the front row.

Further evidence of Kettering's VE Day effigy was aired on Channel 5 in their VE Day: The Lost Films. with a short clip of VE Day crowds in Kettering.

The scenes were captured on cine film by an unknown movie maker.

Footage pans across a typical terraced street showing a cheering group of men, women and children as they crowd towards the lens brandishing an effigy of Adolf Hitler in the style of a Guy Fawkes guy.

You can watch the programme and the clip of Kettering here which appears at 38 minutes 46 seconds.

If you appear in the any of the photos or recognise relatives get in touch by emailing [email protected]

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A sign was slung around the guy's neck saying: "You've had it Adolph"
Children and adults give the V for victory sign
VE Day street party
Kettering in colour. VE Day banners festoon Speight's Corner, on the junction of London Road and Bowling Green Road, Kettering